We are less than a week away from the release of the highly anticipated expansion “Evolutions”, and with that, the final release in the XY era of the TCG. No card in the set look like it will hugely affect the current meta-game on its own. However some will either make for great fun decks or be played in current decks, improving them in some way.
Here is my personal impression about the new set, specifically the cards I think will see the most play.
Venusaur/Blastoise/Charizard Spirit Link
The Kanto starters finally get their Spirit Links, but is it already too late?
With the Mega Kanto starters being rather old and outdated cards, they may get used for some time to test if the Spirit Links make them useful, just to find out that they still are not strong enough for the current meta. We may see some Dragon type M Charizard-EX (Flashfire 69) in extended as it now will be rather easy to set up for a whopping 300 damage, but only time will tell.
After many “so close to good, but not quite” Beedrill cards, this one may see some play in some cool fun decks. While far from competetive, building up 3-4 Beedrill by round 2 (with the help of Forest Of Giant Plants) sure is possible. Once set up, Beedrill´s Swarming Sting attack can be used to oneshot benched Shaymin, Manaphy or damage any upcoming threats. The real danger for Beedrill though, is a drastic damage drop when any Beedrill are prized or got knocked out, which makes it nothing more than a fun gimmick.
Thanks to its massive 200 damage, Charizard is able to oneshot pretty much any EX in the current meta, as long as they do not carry a Fighting Fury Belt. Its ability Energy Burn allows it to be charged up with any type of energy, such as Double Colorless Energy, electric energy with Magnezone, even Palkia EX can help charge up Charizard.
However, it is a stage 2 Pokemon with an attack that costs 4 energy and needs to discard 3 of them just for attacking once, which makes it very hard to continously attack with it. Sadly, that makes Charizard very awkward to use and rather slow.
Ninetales and Ninetales BREAK
Ninetales is a very curious addition to the currently rather strong fire type, which as of now is mostly based on basic Pokemon such as Volcanion and Volcanion EX. Now we have a stage 1 card in Ninetales, which is just a tad too weak to be actually useful in the current meta, but it comes with a BREAK form, which actually is very powerful. Ninetales BREAK´s Explosive Fireball deals 10+ 60 damage for each energy on it, for the prize of discarding them all. That pairs very well with Burning Energy, as they reattach themselves after discarding them with this attack. For only 3 energy, this ends up being enough damage to oneshot EX Pokemon (as long as they do not carry Fighting Fure Belt). A likely better choice for a Ninetales to use alongside its BREAK form would be the “Barrier Shrine” Ninetales from Primal Clash, as it doesnt force you to discard energy and helps you to keep your stadium card where it should be.
As mentioned above, Volcanion and Volcanion EX currently are the stars of fire decks, and with Starmie, they get some star help in the consistency department. For the cost of discarding any card from your hand, its ability Space Bacon… i mean Beacon gets 2 basic energy from your discard pile right to your hand, either to just attach them or, as mentioned above, abuse them with Volcanion EX. Starmie gives decks, that rely on basic energy, a lot more consistency, which does include Magnezone too for example. However, this card seems to be made for Volcanion and probably will be played quite a lot in those decks.
Energy acceleration in a high risk high reward fashion, that´s Electrode in a nutshell. It will not be used to attack, it wont even take up bench space for long, it will just evolve and shapeshift into a double electric energy, effectively giving you up to 4 energy by round 2, or 6 if you use Double Colorless Energy. However, it does have to evolve first and lets the opponent take a prize for activating its effect. Wally alongside Electrode (or rather Voltorb in that case) can allow Raikou from BREAKthrough to possibly attack first round for a whopping 110 damage, at the cost of giving the opponent a free prize card. With future releases of new and powerful GX cards to pair up with Electrode, this card always should be kept somewhere in mind when building electric decks in the future.
Ironically enough, Mewtwo is a great counter to the currently very popular M Mewtwo EX, as, with a Fighting Fury Belt on it, there need to be only 4 energy on the opposing M Mewtwo to oneshot it with Mewtwo´s Psychic, for the small cost of a Double Colorless Energy. The other way around, M Mewtwo needs 6 energy between both active Pokemon to oneshot a Mewtwo that is eqiupped with a Fighting Fury Belt. Sadly, in most other circumstances, “Baby” Mewtwo is not too useful, as Pokemon with high energy cost attacks are not very common in the current meta. Barrier can help you stall, but overall isnt very useful either and not worth the 2 psychic energy attachments.
Machamp and Machamp BREAK
Since fighting lost a bunch of support with the recent rotation and thus, the loss of the Furious Fists expansion, it lacks speed and consistency. That also is Machamp´s biggest problem, as it by itself is a great card, but lacks support. Instantly, Talonflame from Steam Siege comes to mind, helping you quickly set up Machamp by searching for Strong Energy, Rare Candy and, of course Machamp itself. Carbink BREAK from Fates Collide can also help you quickly attach needed energy onto a (soon to be) Machamp on your bench. The ability Counterattack greatly helps Machamp reach specific numbers of damage to (kinda) oneshot opponents. Counterattack + Seismic Toss = 150 damage, enough to k.o. Most stage 2 Pokemon. Counterattack + Seismic Toss with Strong energy = 170 damage, enough to k.o. EXes like Giratina EX and Mewtwo EX. Overall, Machamp seems to be a very stable card, which may need a bit more support to set up than it is worth right now. Machamp BREAK gives it a massive 190 HP, but an attack that is rather easy to interrupt. Pokemon Ranger and Lysandre can easily take away the bonus damage Boomerang Lariat tries to deal, which in my opinion is not worth building up a stage 3 (stage 2 + BREAK) Pokemon. Maybe splashing one in when building a deck around Machamp can be useful, but i would not focus a deck onto the BREAK itself.
Pidgeot EX and M Pidgeot EX
Pidgeot EX by itself is really disappointing. Standard 170 HP, a near useless first attack which only works if Pidgeot was attacked the round before (which we normally wanna prevent on a Pokemon that gives away 2 prizes) and a lackluster second attack, which is a downgraded night Spear from Darkrai EX back in Dark Explorers.
The mega evolution, M Pidgeot EX also is, as much as i hate saying it, only lacklustre. 130 plain damage on a 3 energy attack is just not enough for a Mega Pokemon, especially with an effect that can force the opponent to switch, but allows the opponent to choose what to switch into, limiting the effect´s use drastically.
At least it has free retreat going for it…
This mischievous little rodent gets its seperate spot, mainly because of its “revolutionary” ability.
It can, simply by being put onto the bench, discard your opponent´s Pokemon Tools. Something very few cards can currently do in the standart format. Sadly, only the tool(s) on the opponent´s active Pokemon is/are discarded, limiting its use. Also, the main reason why you currently would want to discard Pokemon tool cards is because of Garbador, which actually disables Rattata´s ability and thus makes it unable to discard Garbador´s tool in the first place. Removing any Float Stones, Fighting Fury Belts and Spirit Links is great though, even at the cost of a precious bench space.
A gimmick card, but a strong one. Having some free space in a deck and hate special energy cards like Double Colorless Energy or Strong Energy? Consider Raticate. Late game, its Shadowy Bite can oneshot pretty much anything your opponent throws your say, for a single colorless energy. That is, if the opponent actually plays any special energy. If you were able to have your opponent discard some or k.o.ed some of his Pokemon that carried special energy, Raticate can clean the field. The first attack, Crunch, though only dealing 10 damage, can help you discarding the energy for later use of Shadowy Bite. Sadly, it has only a tiny 60 HP, which would even be low for a basic Pokemon, it has 1 retreat cost and it needs to evolve from Rattata, which is a useful card on its own though, as ive mentioned before.
Another Mewtwo EX, as if we didnt have enough of those already. This one is rather underwhelming though. Energy Absorbtion helps you set up M Mewtwo quickly (yes, i dont even consider playing Mewtwo without its Mega form). Regeneration is a decent heal, but sadly takes the spot where an attack for low energy couldve been. And finally Psyburn, seemingly Mewtwo´s favorite TCG attack since way back when, is just too weak for 4 energy cost, especially when one of them is psychic type (no 2x Double Colorless Energy to use it). However the 10 HP more than the other Mewtwo EX in Standard could be helpful as well as Psyburn being able to oneshot M Mewtwo EX in a mirror match. Id much rather have access to Damage Change though.
The second best new card in this expansion in my opinion.
Just by playing it onto the bench, it allows you to grab 2 basic Pokemon (except for any Dragonite EX) from your discard pile onto your hand. This way, you can easily recycle Pokemon you had to discard with Ultra Ball/Sycamore or even refill your bench in a M Rayquaza EX deck after you got hit by a Parallel City. It even has a considerably good attack, even for 4 colorless energy. A guaranteed energy discard always is nice to slow down opponents in a pinch and exactly that is what you need if you have to use Dragonite EX to attack.
And now we get to the best of the best, the star of the set. Brock… how ironic. Brock´s Grit is a Super Rod on steroids, but at the cost of the supporter for the turn. And we know, nearly every deck has at least one Super Rod. Repeadedly usable through VS Seeker, he allows you to shuffle a great amount of cards back into the deck, protecting you from mill decks, giving you back great amounts of resources and, unlike Super Rod, Brock can be discarded early game, just to be dug up with VS Seeker later on, when he is actually needed. Also, the full art version looks awesome and will be found in most of my decks for sure.
Wouldve been a good card if it was released about half a year ago. Now with Trevenant BREAK being gone from standart thanks to the Item Lock Trevenant from XY being rotated out, there are rarely any BREAK Pokemon to be seen. To use this card for the occasional 2-hit on Greninja BREAK, would be a waste of space.
Slowbro EX and M Slowbro EX
Give it either Heavy Boots (at the cost of not having a Spirit Link) or use Chaos Tower to prevent M Slowbro from being confused and you have a decent gimmicky Mega beater that can be worked around with Pokemon ranger and Lysandre with a near useless basic form. Not worth the effort, but can be a fun gimmick deck. Hint: you can use Weavile to switch between Spirit Link and Heavy Boot
Here Comes Team Rocket!
Congratulations, Team Rocket, for being the worst card in the set -slow clap-.
One of the most underrated supporter cards in my opinion, and this time good old first gen. Misty gets an awesome new artwork in this card’s full art form. Definetely one of my favorite artworks to date.
Overall, Evolutions does bring some great cards to the TCG, while not including any cards that will drastically change the metagame. I think, as for additions to already established decks, we will see lots of Brock´s Grit and Dragonite EX, maybe some Starmie in Volcanion decks. The retro design of the cards makes them amazing to look at, especially for players like me who are with the TCG from the very beginning. Sadly, the Secret Rares in this set are simply unplayable and only worth getting for collection purposes.